British Airways carries more than 40 million customers a year. As well as flying holidaymakers to amazing destinations around the world, it also conveys business travellers to 170 airports in 70 countries. Unlocking new opportunities with these business-to-business customers required a huge amount of manual effort. “Account managers were spending around 40% of their time mining data to monitor performance and identify new business opportunities,” said Edward Millington-Jones, Sales Enablement Manager at the airline. “By centralising our processes and standardising our reporting, we’ve brought this down to around 10%.”
This is just one example of how British Airways is blazing a trail in B2B sales following a revamp of its global operations. The airline has more than 2,000 corporate customers as well as numerous relationships with travel management companies. “Our B2B customers account for a large chunk of our premium revenue,” said Millington-Jones. “We offer a range of incentives and discount fares, which all need to be managed individually for each customer. It’s incredibly complex.”
The airline’s regional approach to B2B sales added even more complexity to the process. As Millington-Jones explained: “Each region had slightly different processes and strategies, which impacted on efficiency and the customer experience.”
As part of its business plan, British Airways embarked on a major B2B sales transformation programme. “The British Airways business plan puts the customer at the beginning of everything that we do,” said Millington-Jones. “Our vision is to be the airline of choice with personalised service, exceptional reliability, a digital mind-set, and unique British style.”
To achieve this vision across its B2B operation, the company needed to rethink how it engaged with corporate customers, SMEs, and travel management companies. This led to the creation of centralized Sales Planning and Sales Operation functions, a new Inside Sales function and a highly mobile field sales team who focus on the most strategic accounts..
To empower its people globally and regionally, British Airways needed a platform that would support greater collaboration, smarter mobile working, and sharper reporting. Although the airline has been using Salesforce since 2014, the transformation reinforced the platform’s role in the business. “As well as offering great out-of-the-box functionality, Salesforce also provides us with excellent development options,” said Millington-Jones. “Our vision is for Salesforce to become a one-stop-shop for B2B sales for British Airways and Iberia.”
Millington-Jones and his colleagues are already well on their way to making this vision a reality, with planning, team collaboration, and deal execution all now powered by Sales Cloud. “We want our people to spend more time on sales and less time on administration,” he said. “Salesforce has become our virtual sales office. It’s not just a CRM platform, it’s a digital platform.”
The airline’s corporate deals are highly complex with lots of different parameters and fares. To ensure all these fares are applied correctly, they must be distributed not only to the corporate customer but also any travel management companies they use. In the past this process involved manually inputting data from multiple spreadsheets, which was not only time-consuming but also prone to human error.
By digitalising the process and introducing self-service options, British Airways has completely transformed its B2B fare distribution process. It now takes 72 hours to publish new fares instead of up to two weeks. “Fare distribution is key to our B2B sales operation,” said Millington-Jones. “With Community Cloud, we have empowered travel management companies to administer their own distribution data, which speeds up the process for us and them, and makes it easier for corporate customers to plan their business trips.”
Salesforce has also become a source of rich business insights for the airline. “We always captured comprehensive sales and customer data, but it was difficult to access,” explained Millington-Jones. “By introducing a series of standardised dashboards, data is not only available for team members to view but also to analyse.”
From revenue streams and pending deals to sales call volumes, campaign results, and market share values, the B2B team at British Airways can now track key activities and metrics in real time. This not only increases competition between teams but also enables managers to address performance gaps by arranging additional coaching. “With Salesforce, we can tap into a wealth of customer and revenue data, which is revealing new insights into our B2B sales,” said Millington-Jones. “
Standardised dashboards and metrics also mean that performance can be measured consistently across the globe. “In the past, people only had visibility of their own accounts,” said Millington-Jones. “Now people have visibility across the sales portfolio, so know what they need to strive for.”
Sales managers also have better visibility of individual account development plans and how they align to the airline’s overall business objectives. For example, if British Airways agrees a new alliance with another airline, it can ensure that account development plans can be updated with objectives to support this. “In the past, account development plans were created in Word documents and couldn't be reported on in bulk,” said Millington-Jones. “With Salesforce, we can check in one hit if objectives in individual ADPs align with our overall business strategies.”
As the B2B sales team becomes more mobile and virtual, the ability to centrally manage account development and collaborate on deal execution will be increasingly important. British Airways has set up a number of Chatter groups to help bring together 500-plus colleagues around the world. “Chatter was an instant success,” said Millington-Jones. “We can push out information to the team more quickly and they can ask questions more easily.”
British Airways has also been able to streamline other key processes by integrating Salesforce with its deal modelling platform and data warehouse, as well as AppExchange solutions for contract creation and authorisation. “Efficiency is a key pillar of our business plan,” said Millington-Jones. “With Salesforce, we can maximise the potential and the productivity of our B2B sales team. Our people can spend more time with customers delivering the personalised service and exceptional value they expect from British Airways.”